Hong Kong-based tech accessory brand Native Union is perhaps best recognised for their stylish, minimalistic phone cases, power cables and travel essentials, all catering to the design-loving universe of Apple aficionados. Now, they’ve just created an exclusive sound system in collaboration with historic French Hi-Fi stalwarts La Boite Concept.
With over 80 years of making beautiful, state-of-the-art speakers, La Boite Concept is particularly skilled at developing audio systems that toe the line between contemporary tech and classic furniture, with audio systems that double as desks, consoles, coffee tables and more. In recent years, they have zoned in on the wireless audio sector — all the while relying on woodworking artisans from French and Spanish Basque country, from where the company is based in Ustaritz.
Co-developed with Native Union, the new PR/01 was designed with timelessness in mind — surely, the simple clean lines of its even rectangle will never go out of style. But hidden behind this simplicity packs a ton of expertise and innovation from both brands.
Predominantly connected via Bluetooth to your phone or other device, the wooden frame slides out to reveal a drawer that hides all your essentials: phone, USB-a and USB-c cables for charging, and even aux cords should you wish to connect with analogue sound — giving multiple options for audio-in whether you’re a stickler to tradition or prefer to stream your music. If your device is powered with Qi Wireless Charging (basically iPhone 8 and above), the wooden outer can also accommodate the Native Union Drop Wireless Charger. After connecting, simply plop your phone on the top of the speaker itself to stay juiced without creating extra clutter. The compact frame also makes it ideal for Hong Kong’s shoebox apartments.
Contrasting dark wood and black metal with pleasing brass-coloured aluminium controls, the PR/01 exudes a modern aesthetic that almost harks back to the 70s. The soft speaker grille at the front is also easily removable, revealing a more classic look with the speaker diaphragm exposed. The large dial to the top left corner allows you to easily adjust the bass without opening the drawer, which brings us to the most essential concern: just how good is the sound?
The R&D team at La Boite have reinvented the company’s “Active Pression Reflex” technology from the 70s to support today’s digital needs, and is currently awaiting patent approval. Involving two speakers inside a multi-amplified pneumatic system, the design helps the PR/01 handle the lowest frequencies without sacrificing clarity and high fidelity. This is great news for stark, bassline-fueled tunes, for example most songs by The xx, as we were able to test out at the Native Union office. A powerful, moody quality instantly swept the room, especially when playing the old faithful, “Hotel California” by The Eagles, getting even more palpably emotive as you slide the bass toggle up.
For those worried about dodgy Bluetooth connections, the PR/01 boasts a Bluetooth connection that uses aptX sound compression — an ubiquitous label these days promising “CD-like quality” sound delivered wirelessly. However, experts say the difference is only evident when the input and output both have aptX (Apple products typically don’t, we learn).
While it was handy to be able to adjust the bass directly to suit each song, you may get disappointed if you’re more of a dubstep/EDM enthusiast — the maximum bass doesn’t really pack the kind of punch that one would typically expect from loudspeaker. Then again, with the understated, classic look of the speaker itself, would you really be the kind of person blasting that kind of music?
Having first launched at the MOMA Design Store as an exclusive, limited edition piece to tie into a spotlight on French innovation, the PR/01 is now available for retail online. Priced at HK$7,000, it’s certainly an affordable, and most importantly, stylish and sophisticated audio solution for those who nitpick about their clutter-free homes. Get yours at Native Union.